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Posted on Tue, Nov 16, 2010 : 6:03 a.m.

Medical marijuana moratorium extended 60 days as Ann Arbor officials work out details of ordinance

By Ryan J. Stanton


City Attorney Stephen Postema, left, told council members Monday night his office has a draft licensing plan for medical marijuana dispensaries in the works.

Ryan J. Stanton |

An ongoing moratorium prohibiting new medical marijuana dispensaries from opening in Ann Arbor will last a little longer while city officials work out legal issues.

The Ann Arbor City Council voted unanimously Monday night on a resolution to extend the moratorium they enacted back in early August for 60 more days, or until Jan. 31.

The temporary freeze was set to expire Dec. 3, but the city attorney's office is asking for more time to come up with a licensing ordinance for marijuana businesses, which will complement zoning ordinance revisions governing where dispensaries can be located.

The City Council was expected to act Monday night to implement the new zoning regulations, which have been in the works for months. But council members decided to postpone any action at the urging of City Attorney Stephen Postema.

Unlike the zoning changes, the licensing aspect hasn't been discussed in public, and Postema is advising the council it would be best to roll out both pieces at the same time.

The attorney's office plans to bring the licensing plan to the City Council at its Dec. 6 meeting. From there, it would go on to final approval on Dec. 20, the same night the zoning regulations are now expected to come back.

"It's really a licensing plan," Postema said. "We're not completed on that, but we're looking at a number of different regulations that I would propose to the council. It's actually the council's decision, but it would really include things related to who can own a dispensary, what type of dispensary, what type of security regulations, what type of business arrangements and that type of thing — putting regulations in place that have been successful elsewhere."

City officials have been working since August to come up with first-of-their-kind regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries that are now sprouting in Ann Arbor. They have estimated about eight or nine operations opened before the moratorium hit.

While marijuana remains illegal on a federal level, the legalization of medicinal cannabis in Michigan in 2008 has presented a unique situation for cities like Ann Arbor.

"It's unprecedented, in part, because you have a situation where the state of the law is uncertain at the state and federal level, and therefore it forces the municipalities to do what is best," Postema said. "The federal government and the state government may not have done the best job and may have put the municipalities in difficult situations."

In recent months, has fielded several phone calls from marijuana growers throughout Michigan and as far as Colorado who say they're interested in opening medical marijuana operations in Ann Arbor as soon as the moratorium is lifted.

"I've never dealt with licensing, especially licensing on this level, so I'll be showing my ignorance," Council Member Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward, said Monday night, wondering whether the City Council should hold a special working session on the issue.

"You say that you're not familiar with it — that's because this is an unprecedented issue," Postema responded. "And therefore, I think there are issues certainly that deal with regulation that would go as broad or as narrow as you, as the council, see fit. Because when you look around the United States, there are all sorts of possible schemes."

Public sentiment in favor of medical marijuana is strong in Ann Arbor, where voters overwhelmingly have supported efforts to make it available to those who say they need it.

In 2004, a proposal to amend the Ann Arbor City Charter to allow the growth and use of marijuana for medicinal purposes when authorized by a physician passed locally with 75 percent of the vote. In 2008, Ann Arbor voters joined a majority of Michigan voters in approving a referendum that legalized medical marijuana statewide.

Postema appears hesitant to use the word "legalized," though.

"The state can't legalize it under federal law," he said. "The best they can do is provide a decriminalization and a defense (to prosecution) under state law. But even despite that, the council is certainly ready and will do something that's wise for the citizens of Ann Arbor."

Though the new moratorium end date is Jan. 31, it actually will expire upon the effective date of the regulations being approved by the council, city officials said.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529.


Craig Lounsbury

Wed, Nov 17, 2010 : 12:58 p.m.

I don't want to sound like the old broken record here but again I see no provision for dispensary's as the law and associate rules read. In the link below bullet point #7 reads... "You, or your designated primary caregiver, may grow your marihuana. There is no place in the state of Michigan to legally purchase medical marihuana.",1607,7-132-27417_51869_52137---,00.html As I pointed out in my earlier post, a care giver can only have 5 patients/customers. So unless these caregiver/dispensaries have less than 6 clients I don't see how they are legal at all. I'm not passing judgement on the war on drugs or whether pot should be legal. But the law is sloppy and needs to be enforced or rewritten in my opinion. If I am missing something about the legal provision for dispensaries will somebody set me straight?


Wed, Nov 17, 2010 : 9:22 a.m.

In our town, banks are robbed more frequently than dispensaries and those of you who don't like these medical marijuana businesses should remember that their mere presence is taking a chunk out of the dangers of an unregulated, illegal black market. The war on drugs is a failure, folks. 40 years and a trillion dollars and what do we have to show for it? Drugs are more potent, more widely available than before. Kids have access to it because drug dealers don't ask for ID, just cash. Dispensaries will ask for and check ID. If you want your kids to keep getting pot (ask them, it's way easier for them to obtain than the legal, regulated drugs like tobacco and alcohol) just keep fighting a legalized, regulated system.

Craig Lounsbury

Wed, Nov 17, 2010 : 7:15 a.m.

CincoDeMayo, I did read the article in the Observer. I'm no lawyer, nor do I pretend to be an expert on the law. But I don't see where the law provides for anything like a "dispensary". It only seems to address a "patient" and a "caregiver". So in my interpretation I see the "dispensary" as the equivalent to a "caregiver". It possess/provides pot to a patient. What am I missing in this regard?


Wed, Nov 17, 2010 : 12:06 a.m.

And out of the Packard corridor - thank you! Craig - regarding a care giver not being allowed more than 5 patients, did you read the article in the Ann Arbor Observer? If I remember correctly, the extra that is grown can be "donated" to the "non-profit" dispensary, who in turn compensates them, not for the marijuana of course, but I think for their time and expenses.... There are so many loopholes. This is big money business! I'm not trying to be in anybody's "business", but it is just such a farce. I don't care who smokes it, but I would argue that it is addictive. I have seen many times the effect of this addiction when those who regularly smoke it, don't have any to smoke. The irritability, agitation, and hostility are evident. Then again, maybe they are naturally irritable, agitated, and hostile, and smoking is their "medicine" of choice in their search for relief. I would like to know if the pill form of THC really is not as effective. It appears that it is effective for some. Also, Atticus, I'm not saying it's the greatest, and I'm not sure why it is any more acceptable than marijuana, but those I know who have died from cancer have been given morphine for pain relief.


Tue, Nov 16, 2010 : 4:14 p.m.

Mike Bouchard uses the dispensaries in Oakland County for SWAT team practice. There was a story on WUOM this morning about his use of his SWAT team to take down one dispensary, hey, just like the movies. Face masked SWAT team members bust in, force everyone to the floor, rough them up, take them to jail for several days, then charge them with major felonies. Now we can fill up the jails with those nasty pot dealers, again. Forget the moratorium, let the market sort out how many pushers the city can have. Then let the SWAT teams practice on the ones that are left. God, what a wonderful world we live in!

Not from around here

Tue, Nov 16, 2010 : 2:03 p.m.

look, I'm trying to be understanding but every bit of research thatI have found on medicinal use of Marijuana single out THC as the only teraputic chemical and that the pill form of THC-already available to pharmacist-is even more affective than the smoked version without the "high" affect that recreational users like. So if anyone has scientific studies to back up aything different, please post them. If not, ban all dispensaries, there is no scientific point to having them. And I love those old "opium den" bars of detroit-maybe we need to take Ed on a field trip to them!

Atticus F.

Tue, Nov 16, 2010 : 1:51 p.m.

Also, to all of the people speaking out against medical cannabis; I pray that none of your loved ones have to suffer that pain that my dad did as he died of cancer... And if one of your loved ones does die a terrible painful cancer death, I pray that there is not some ignorant hateful person trying to take away ANYTHING that might bring them comfort.

rusty shackelford

Tue, Nov 16, 2010 : 1:50 p.m.

Oh, and "I love to see opion den like arraigements with well dress student with ascots and top hats disappear into long smoky buildings with bad asian themed decor and lounge on long beds with ornate pipes!" I've actually been to bars like this in Detroit;-)

rusty shackelford

Tue, Nov 16, 2010 : 1:48 p.m.

not from around..., I'm sure if you can get CVS or Walgreen's to agree to carry medical marijuana, users would gladly go there. But then, you wouldn't be able to go to those pharmacies because you would be worried about crime, right? Isn't that your rationale for restricting and/or banning dispensaries? As Atticus F mentioned, THC is not the sole chemical compound in marijuana plants that has ameliorative properties.

Not from around here

Tue, Nov 16, 2010 : 1:44 p.m.

Well I still think it was funny! Come on people, get off your high horses long enough to see the joke in the weeds (see, two jokes in that sentence already. Plus no one has bothered to answer my original question-if it's medicinal use only, why not use the pill form available through the already established system of pharmacies???

Atticus F.

Tue, Nov 16, 2010 : 1:39 p.m.

Also, comparing cannabis to Opium, is like comparing apples to oranges. Cannabis is not physically addictive as is opium. Cannabis can not cause a fatal overdose as does opium. And cannabis does not affect reflex and motor skills the way opium does. Also, you should note that it's not simply thc that can have healing effects...It's also the cannibinoids (of which there are thousands). So it's more a matter of patients finding the particular strain of cannabis that suits their personal medical condition... But I'm sure you were ignorant of that fact also.

Joe Hood

Tue, Nov 16, 2010 : 1:33 p.m.

@Not from around here: This is the 150th Anniversary of the Opium Wars in China. What was it that man from China once said about history repeating?

Not from around here

Tue, Nov 16, 2010 : 1:28 p.m.

Ricebrnr=AnnArborites are the most open, warm and fair people on the planet, as long as you agree with them. If not your a brainless hick. Speechless=if were goign to go back to the hippy 70's with our drug policies let take it a step further and take it back to the 1870's! I love to see opion den like arraigements with well dress student with ascots and top hats disappear into long smoky buildings with bad asian themed decor and lounge on long beds with ornate pipes!

Atticus F.

Tue, Nov 16, 2010 : 1:27 p.m.

@notfromaroundhere, You are flat out wrong in assuming that these places were robbed soley because they sell cannabis. The truth is that any place that has alot of cash or valuables on hand is equally suseptable to being robbed. To assume that a dispensary is more likely to be robbed than a pizza place or a bank, stinks of ignorance, reefer madness, and misinformation. And to riceburner, maybe you dont know alot abotu Ann Arbor's history...But we certainly do have a history of cultural diversity and tolerance that you do not see in cities like Saline. If you think cities like Saline and Milan are more tolerant than Ann Arbor, then you clearly are in need of being commited to the nearest mental hospital.


Tue, Nov 16, 2010 : 1:15 p.m.

A short holiday wish list for the future ordinance that will govern regulation: • Keep it local. Ban the franchising of dispensaries. • Require that all dispensaries run as non-profit entities. In general, direct these operations to function as community services in the alternative spirit of the early 1970s — the era that produced the $5 fine. Discourage them from becoming exercises in the 'free market' exploitation of legal cannabis users. Create a legal framework that puts customers first.


Tue, Nov 16, 2010 : 1:14 p.m.

@ Atticus, I find your comments very amusing. "tolerance" Considering the attacks I have seen on these pages? "as why some people are so worried about what others are doing" Seems like SOP for Arborites being busy bodies whether it directly affects them or not.

Not from around here

Tue, Nov 16, 2010 : 1:04 p.m.

So I guess that eliminateds the need to grow and smoke marijuana for medicinal affect. So since the only recognised benifit to injesting can be had in an already available pill format; what is the point to growing and selling dope? I mean, if its for recreational use, just tell us. I know that theres already a slew of dispensaries for California looking to open up despensaries here and a equal number of licenced medical professional willing to write anyone a script for it so it must be big business. Lets just be honest behind the reasoning.

Joe Hood

Tue, Nov 16, 2010 : 12:38 p.m.

@Not from around here: Here is NIH information that backs up your last sentence about THC in a pill (Q: Is marijuana sometimes used as a medicine?):

Not from around here

Tue, Nov 16, 2010 : 12:24 p.m.

Atticus, I think the issue is not the Dispenseries but the crime that goes along with them. How long did it take after the first one opened to have a dangerous situation with armed suspects? And don't give me the whole "banks/party stores get robbed too, shouldn't we close them as well argument". Historically it doesn't hold water. If Mary Jane is a liget medicine why not have CVS and Walgreens do the dispencing? My understanding is that you can recieve the same benifits without the "high" feeling by injesting it in pill form?

Atticus F.

Tue, Nov 16, 2010 : 12:13 p.m.

Rodney, just out of curiosity, what is so bothersome to you about having dispensaries in the city? I'm not trying to be stand-offish. I'm just trying to get some insight as why some people are so worried about what others are doing.

Rodney Nanney

Tue, Nov 16, 2010 : 10:13 a.m.

It would be good to have one of the poll choices be, "I support a permanent prohibition on new medical marijuana dispensaries in Ann Arbor" - so that you have a full range of policy choices in your poll.

rusty shackelford

Tue, Nov 16, 2010 : 9:53 a.m.

These continued delays are inexcusable. The city knew this law was coming for quite some time and did nothing until too late. Now they are preventing legitimate business owners from investing in the city because of a lot of undue handwringing. (This, from a city where marijuana has been decriminalized for decades!)

Atticus F.

Tue, Nov 16, 2010 : 9:18 a.m.

Tim, there have always been stoners and vagrants in Ann Arbor. where have you been fot the last 30 years? But you should also consider that there have always been doctors, lawyers, and professors in Ann Arbor, and there will continue to be. We have a spirit of tolerance and diversity in this town...And some people find it hard to believe that Ann arbor hasn't exploded in a giant ball of fire due to that tolerance.


Tue, Nov 16, 2010 : 8:41 a.m.

Pandora's box has been opened...Ann Arbor will become home to stoners and vagrants. I thought medical marijuana was for dying cancer patients only? lol

Marshall Applewhite

Tue, Nov 16, 2010 : 8:23 a.m.

After reading some background information, I understand why the City Council keeps extending the moratorium. There have been a flood of California dispensaries trying to franchise themselves in Ann Arbor, and the City Council doesn't like this idea. For anyone interested, here's a link to a Wall Street Journal article from yesterday about it.

Craig Lounsbury

Tue, Nov 16, 2010 : 7:55 a.m.

As I read the rules of the Act a care giver can not have more than 5 patients. So it seems to me that would likely make all these dispensaries illegal. I can't imagine these people running a business with 5 customers each. Rule 333.115 Primary caregiver; number of qualified patients; compensation. Rule 15. (1) The department shall issue a registry identification card to the primary caregiver, if any, who is named in a qualifying patient's approved application. A registered primary caregiver may assist not more than 5 qualifying patients with their medical use of marihuana.


Tue, Nov 16, 2010 : 7:09 a.m.

Another moratorium eh? In order to work on it some more? I'd be interested in seeing if any work has been done.